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Hockey Canada moved cash from fund used for sexual assault claims to avoid encouraging more claims: report



A controversial reserve fund that Hockey Canada publicly vowed it would stop using to settle sexual assault allegations is significantly depleted after the organization transferred millions of dollars in past years to another account, a new interim report reveals.

Former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell’s interim report on Hockey Canada’s governance, released last week, contains damning details about the organization’s management of its National Equity Fund — a fund Cromwell said is projected be in deficit by 2023.

Hockey Canada commissioned Cromwell’s review in response to hockey parents’ outrage after learning that the National Equity Fund — made up in part of players’ registration fees — was being used to pay out millions of dollars for sexual assault allegations without their knowledge.

Cromwell learned of the existence of a third fund to which Hockey Canada’s board of directors approved the transfer of $10.25 million in reserve funds from the National Equity Fund (NEF) in 2016. Another financial analysis has found that at least another $7 million has been transferred from the NEF to the third fund since then.

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The money was moved after Hockey Canada’s auditors recommended a change to the organization’s disclosure on its audited financial statements that “increased the reported balance of the National Equity Fund by several million dollars,” Cromwell found.

Cromwell concluded that the organization’s board of directors feared that an account with more money would attract more claims.

“Hockey Canada became concerned that this change on the financial statements inflated the NEF balance artificially, which might signal a large pool of funds set aside for potential claimants and thus might increase the likelihood of additional claims,” Cromwell wrote in his report.

In November 2016, Hockey Canada’s board of directors transferred the money from the NEF to another fund called the Insurance Rate Stabilization (IRS) Fund, which was created years earlier to “act as a buffer against future increases in insurance rates,” the report said. The Athletic was the first to report on the new fund and the money transfers.

$17 million transferred

The board justified the transfer, saying it was a way to expand the scope of the IRS Fund “for the purpose of providing financial support against potential future non-insured claims,” Cromwell’s report said.

Cromwell said Hockey Canada also broadly expressed that changes to its transparency were “not well suited for their organization, such as making financial statements and minutes of Member meetings available to the public.”

“Although Hockey Canada has achieved considerable financial success over the years, Hockey Canada is concerned that being seen as an organization with ‘deep pockets’ could create some negative implications,” Cromwell’s report said.

“For example, this could have an effect on their bargaining power with respect to the settlement of lawsuits, and this could also influence the amount of money that sponsors would be willing to offer in the future.”

Kate Bahen, managing director of Charity Intelligence Canada said Cromwell’s report showed her “there was an intent to hide funds.”

By examining Hockey Canada’s audited financial statements, Bahen found the NEF’s “true balance” was $15.7 million in 2016 before the organization ended up transferring $9.5 million to the other fund. (Cromwell’s report said the board approved a $10.25 million transfer, but the statements show $9.5 million was moved, according to Bahen.) That transfer brought the NEF down closer to its $5.2 million level in the previous year, before the accounting changes, she said.

Bahen said she also discovered that Hockey Canada’s board approved the transfer of $17 million from the National Equity Fund to the IRS Fund between 2016 and 2021.

“This wasn’t just a one-off occurrence in 2016 … Hockey Canada has for years and years kept its books closed and fought against financial transparency,” said Bahen, who was given Hockey Canada’s audited financial statements obtained under the access to information act.

She said Hockey Canada spent about as much of the NEF’s money on staff salaries, travel, meals and grants between 2014-2021 as it did on insurance claims.


Hockey Canada’s use of fund to pay sexual assault claims flawed: report

A report commissioned by Hockey Canada found serious flaws with how the organization handled a fund used to pay for sexual assault claims.

Hockey Canada said in June that, “effective immediately,” it would no longer use the National Equity Fund to settle sexual assault claims.

The organization’s chief financial officer Brian Cairo softened that message in July when he told Hockey Canada members and executives that the organization “stopped using the fund to settle sexual assault claims pending the outcome of our governance review by an independent third party.”

CBC News asked Hockey Canada what fund would be used to settle sexual assault claims and was told the organization is waiting for Cromwell’s final report.

Bahen said the audited financial statements show that the NEF balance in June 2021 was $9.6 million. Since then, the fund has paid out the maximum amount for a $3.5 million lawsuit alleging a group sexual assault in 2018 involving eight hockey players, including members of the World Junior team, she said.

The new balance of the NEF — which Cromwell said is depleted — will be released at Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting on December 17.

‘A culture of secrecy’

NDP MP Peter Julian sits on a parliamentary committee that held public hearings on Hockey Canada’s handling of sexual assault allegations.

“[The funds transfer] proves once again this labyrinth of funds was designed to avoid public scrutiny and accountability,” he said.

Sébastien Lemire, the Bloc Québécois sports critic, said the existence of a “third fund is not surprising and is a testament to the culture of secrecy that exists within the organization.”

“To learn that the fund that was originally supposed to help injured players is now empty, in part because Hockey Canada used it to settle sexual assault lawsuits, only reinforces the idea that the executives associated with this scheme should resign,” said Lemire.


Hockey Canada board, CEO resign amid widespread criticism


Hockey Canada has announced its CEO and entire board of directors are stepping aside after mounting backlash over its handling of sexual assault allegations.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said he asked Hockey Canada’s interim board chair Andrea Skinner earlier this month if there were any other funds beyond the two the committee knew about.

Skinner responded that, to the best of her knowledge, no other funds were used.

“It reflects what I thought was misleading testimony at committee,” said Housefather.

The NEF has paid 21 settlements since 1989, 11 of which were related to sexual misconduct, according to Cromwell’s interim report.

Nine of those 11 settlements were based on historical cases and given to complainants against perpetrators Graham James, Gordon Stuckless and Brian Shaw. All three names were on a list given to Hockey Canada’s insurer and excluded from insurance claims when Hockey Canada expanded its insurance policy in 1998 to provide sexual misconduct coverage to the organization.

The tenth case involved a historic claim of sexual assault against a referee — someone the insurer said Hockey Canada was aware of and should have warned the insurer about. The eleventh matter was the 2018 group sexual assault allegation involving members of the World Junior team.

Bahen said she’s posted all the audited financial statements on her website and hopes other accountants and experts dig into them too.

Hockey Canada has not yet responded to CBC News’ request for comment.

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Most Canadians think there could be a 2023 recession: survey – CTV News



Nine out of 10 Canadians believe there could be a recession in 2023, according to a new national survey, with four out of 10 calling it “likely.”

A new survey conducted by Nanos Research on behalf of CTV News asked more than 1,000 Canadians if they believed it was likely Canada would have a recession next year.

The vast majority answered that it was “somewhat likely” (44 per cent) or “likely” (42 per cent).

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Less than one per cent believed a recession next year was “not likely,” while around seven per cent said it was “somewhat not likely” and six per cent were unsure.

This survey comes after a Royal Bank of Canada report predicted in October that Canada could be headed for a recession as early as the first quarter of 2023.

That same report found that the average Canadian household could lose $3,000 of buying power next year. A myriad of factors are contributing to this threat of recession, experts say, with cooling housing markets and unemployment levels showing the weakening of our economy.

High inflation has been a recurring issue in 2022, with grocery prices climbing at a pace not seen in decades within the last few months, according to Statistics Canada.


Although a strong majority of Canadians are predicting a potential recession, according to this new survey, those results were not even across the board.

Men were slightly more likely to answer that a recession was somewhat likely/likely, at 88 per cent compared to 85 per cent of women, although the same 7.5 per cent of men and women believed it was somewhat unlikely/likely.

When split into age brackets, those aged 35 to 54 were the most likely to believe that a recession was coming in 2023, with 90.4 per cent answering likely/somewhat likely, compared to 88.4 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 years, and 82.6 per cent of those aged 55 plus.

The difference was more stark when it came to the percentage of respondents who believed a recession was somewhat unlikely/unlikely, with the percentages increasing as the ages of respondents did. Just 2.7 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds thought a 2023 recession was at least somewhat unlikely, compared to 6.5 per cent of 35- to 54-year-olds and 11.3 per cent of those aged 55 plus.

The rates of those who answered that a recession was at least somewhat likely were relatively even across the provinces, with 87 to 88 per cent of the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Ontario choosing this option.

Around 84 per cent of respondents from the Prairies and 84.9 per cent of respondents from British Columbia answered that they believed a recession in 2023 was at least somewhat likely.


Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1025 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between Nov. 27 and 29, 2022, as part of an omnibus survey. Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online. The sample included both land- and cell-lines across Canada. The results were statistically checked and weighted by age and gender using the latest Census information and the sample is geographically stratified to be representative of Canada.

Individuals randomly called using random digit dialing with a maximum of five call backs.

The margin of error for this survey is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

This study was commissioned by CTV News and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.

Note: Charts may not add up to 100 due to rounding.


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Nexus applicants can shuffle off to Buffalo as Canada, U.S. expand pilot project



An experimental bid to rescue the troubled Nexus trusted-traveller program between Canada and the United States has expanded to the Peace Bridge.

Nexus applicants in Canada can now sit down with border agents on opposite sides of the link between Fort Erie, Ont., and Buffalo, N.Y., New York congressman Rep. Brian Higgins said Thursday.

That’s a departure from what used to be the standard practice of being interviewed by U.S. and Canadian agents at the same time — a process that hasn’t taken place on Canadian soil since before the pandemic.

The new procedure at the Peace Bridge crossing is an extension of a pilot project that began in late September at the Thousand Islands crossing between Alexandria Bay, N.Y., and Lansdowne, Ont., just east of Kingston.

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In both locations, Nexus applicants in Canada submit to two separate interviews: first on the Canadian side with a member of the Canada Border Services Agency, then with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials on the American side.

“Border management has gotten more complicated than it has to be,” Higgins said in a statement.

“The U.S. and Canada are longtime friends with interconnected economies. We need to find ways to break down the barriers at our border to better support the flow of people and goods between neighbours.”

The pilot project is considered a partial, short-term solution to the bilateral impasse that has led to U.S. agents refusing to staff Nexus enrolment centres on Canadian soil over what they consider inadequate legal protection.

It’s an “important stopgap,” Higgins said, but the fact it’s needed at all is proof that the two countries have a long way to go before Nexus is back to its pre-pandemic strength.

He called it “a reminder that the U.S. and Canada still need to fulfil the potential of the agreement reached in 2015 to facilitate Nexus application procedures in a seamless way to the benefit of both Canadians and Americans.”

The backlog of Nexus applications in Canada reached as high as 350,000 earlier in the fall, but has been slowly declining since the pilot project began. The Canada Border Services Agency officials did not immediately provide updated numbers.

Higgins said once the project is fully underway at the Peace Bridge, as many as 500 applications could be processed there each week.

It’s a far cry from how Nexus interviews have traditionally been conducted in both countries, with applicants sitting down for an in-person interview that’s jointly conducted by officers from the two agencies in the same room.

That process has been going on as normal in the U.S. since April, when the 13 Nexus centres south of the border reopened for joint interviews after a two-year pandemic-driven hiatus.

Customs and Border Protection, however, won’t send agents to staff centres in Canada without being guaranteed the same legal protections they enjoy on U.S. soil — a condition the federal government in Canada considers a non-starter.

Officials with CBP have so far refused to comment publicly on the dispute.

The impasse turned into a full-blown diplomatic row in October when Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s U.S. envoy, said the program was being “held hostage” to a unilateral attempt to renegotiate the bilateral preclearance agreement under which Nexus was established.

Business leaders and elected officials in both countries have been pressing the two sides to find a solution, describing Nexus as a critical component of the cross-border trade and commercial ties between Canada and the U.S.

That includes a coalition of U.S. lawmakers — Higgins, Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) — who wrote to their Canadian counterparts earlier this month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.

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Inquiry into Emergencies Act urged to recommend greater oversight of police



Lawmakers should define how to maintain government oversight of law enforcement while ensuring police independence more clearly, experts told a public inquiry Thursday, arguing that the understanding of where to draw the line has long been too vague.

The concepts of police oversight and independence came up time and again over six weeks of fact-finding testimony at the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is investigating the federal Liberal government’s use of the Emergencies Act last winter.

Throughout the inquiry hearings, police and politicians described a separation between police operations and policy, and said politicians and police boards should never direct operations.

The line was often described as a separation between church and state.

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“For me, it’s pretty clear. Anything operational, we’re advising what’s happening, but we’re not taking direction on how to do things,” RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki testified on Nov. 15. She suggested the federal government should use legislation to more clearly define the line that politicians should not cross.

While an expert panel of witnesses agreed Thursday that the line should be more clearly defined, Guelph University political science professor Kate Puddister said such a stark distinction is unhelpful.

“My perspective is that this distinction, in an attempt to draw a clear line between the two, does a disservice,” she said. “This formulation allows governments to shirk responsibilities with respect to policing, perhaps as a method of political strategy.”

The commission is looking at the events that led up to the government’s emergency declaration in response to the weeks-long “Freedom Convoy” protest in Ottawa and similar protests at border crossings across Canada.

Beyond assessing whether the move was appropriate, the inquiry also has a mandate to make recommendations about how to modernize the law and suggest areas where further study could be warranted.

After hours of testimony from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau concluded the first phase of the inquiry last Friday, the commission has turned to a second phase of expert testimony on a range of issues related to the protests.

The police governance experts who testified Thursday reaffirmed the importance of police services being independent of political interference. Otherwise, they risk being seen as “a tool of the government of the day,” as Ryan Teschner, the executive director of the Toronto Police Services Board, said in his testimony.

But all agreed that police need more oversight over some elements of their operations.

“We have for too long had a rather vague and sometimes often overblown conception of police independence from government,” Teschner said.

Michael Kempa, a criminologist with the University of Ottawa, suggested legislators “simply jettison the term ‘operations’ altogether,” and define police independence “in terms of the exercise of their powers of investigation, arrest and the laying of charges.”

The experts also said that all police services in Canada should have some kind of civilian oversight body, such as a police commission or board.

Most urban police services in Canada are watched by such entities, but provincial police and RCMP are not. The RCMP commissioner reports directly to the federal minister of public safety.

Creating a board would mean that any political direction to police would be public and documented, and it would ensure that “ministerial direction is appropriate and given when necessary,” Puddister said.

Commissioner Paul Rouleau said some of the panel’s recommendations may make their way into his final report, though he wouldn’t say which.

During a second afternoon session, experts discussed the ways that different levels of government, including First Nations governments, work together in an emergency.

Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, recommended that the Emergencies Act be ammended to require consultation with First Nations in addition to provincial and municipal governments.

“Neither the Emergencies Act or the Emergency Management Act mentions First Nations as governments. Everyone else gets notice,” Sayers said.

“Yet when emergencies happen, it is First Nations lives at stake, their lands, resources and their ability to carry out their section 35 protected rights.”

The specifics about which First Nations should be consulted could vary depending on the emergency at hand, she said.

Cal Corley, CEO of the Community Safety Knowledge Alliance, said more consultation between levels of government could prevent the need to invoke an emergency in the first place.

He said if there are “intentional proactive measures” between federal, provincial, territorial, First Nations and municipal governments to address large-scale protests and emergencies, “it should, in most cases and circumstances, establish conditions that negate the need for governments to even consider invoking the federal Emergencies Act.”

Rouleau and his team must deliver their findings by Feb. 6, with the commission’s final report to be made public by Feb. 20.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.

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